Commerce invests record $97 million in affordable housing projects serving thousands of people statewide

  • December 29, 2020

State Housing Trust Fund grants and loans will create and preserve 1,685 units of housing for low-income households, people experiencing homelessness and others in need

OLYMPIA, WA — Nearly 21 million Americans – nearly half of all U.S. renters in 2020 – paid more than 30% of their income on housing, and nearly a third paid more than half (Harvard University). Stable housing is the foundation for financial self-sufficiency, health and well-being, yet even before the pandemic, it’s estimated that over 129,000 Washington state residents were at risk for homelessness as availability of affordable housing hasn’t kept pace with demand.

The Washington State Department of Commerce today announced $97 million in grants and loans for affordable housing projects in communities across the state. These funds will help provide an estimated 1,404 multifamily rental units/beds, 121 homes for first-time homebuyers, 86 units of modular housing, and 74 units in cottage-style communities. $85.3 million of funding comes from the state’s Housing Trust Fund, with $11.7 million provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HOME and National Housing Trust Fund programs, also managed by Commerce in Washington state.

This year sets a new record for investment by the Housing Trust Fund in affordable housing projects across the state. Highlights of the projects awarded funding include:

  • 361 units of affordable housing to be developed in rural areas of our state;
  • 168 units dedicated to housing people with chronic mental illness and in need of permanent supportive housing;
  • 536 units housing extremely low income (below 30% of area median income) individuals and households;
  • 722 units housing people who are experiencing homelessness, and
  • 121 homes available to first-time homebuyers.

Commerce received a record 82 applications soliciting $207 million in response to three individual funding solicitations this summer. Find the complete award lists at the following links:

“Washington’s affordable housing crisis has deepened with the economic blows of the pandemic,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “These important investments, serving thousands of Washingtonians, represent tremendous collaboration between our state’s Housing Trust Fund, other federal, state and local agencies, along with private business and charitable organizations, to bring every available resource to bear in addressing this growing need throughout our state.”

“Equity in community development is one of our top priorities,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown.  “The pandemic is being experienced very differently throughout our state, with more families struggling to find and keep affordable housing, many for the first time.”

“This record-setting annual investment from the Housing Trust Fund is targeted to strengthen community capacity all over the state and maximize financial impact. Every state dollar invested will leverage $5 on average from other public and private funding sources,” Brown noted.

The challenge of finding and keeping affordable housing is even greater for indigenous and communities of color than the overall population. Among the projects awarded funds is Sacred Medicine House in King County, serving urban indigenous people who make up an estimated 15% of the homeless population in the community but represent just 1% of the population. The project will create 120 units of permanent supportive housing made available in approximately half the usual time, thanks to a collaboration between the Chief Seattle Club and Community Roots Housing that will repurpose an existing affordable housing location.

Driven by a strong desire to help families displaced by rising rents, another project awarded funding, Elizabeth Thomas Homes, will create affordable housing for working families in a south Seattle community where 82% of residents identify as people of color. Located on the site of a former restaurant and historical gathering place in the community for over 50 years, the project is adjacent to schools, a community center and a light rail station, providing access to transportation for the potential residents, many of whom are low-wage essential workers.  First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Equity Alliance of Washington and partner Catholic Housing Services have been in talks with the community for six years in an effort to design a project that will enhance the wealth and well-being of the neighborhood.

Rural communities are also grappling with an affordable housing crisis. Grantee Pasco Haven in the Tri-Cities community is the result of diverse collaboration between the city of Pasco, Kennewick Housing Authority, Inland Development, Continuum of Care and Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health, Horizon Housing Alliance and Catholic Charities Eastern Washington. The project approaches housing stabilization from a holistic, community-oriented model to bring safe, secure housing to residents struggling with the challenges of mental illness, chronic behavioral illness and chemical dependency. Pasco Haven will provide studio and one-bedroom apartments, a place to connect with the community and access to services needed to manage their illnesses, improve job skills, and identify and create plans that improve issues contributing to chronic poverty.  Project leaders say Pasco Haven will be a symbol of hope for people experiencing homelessness in Pasco, Franklin County, and the Tri-cities region at large.

These are just a few of the 37 projects awarded funding and located all over the state, in rural, suburban and urban communities.

A call for applications for 2021-23 biennial funds, as well as funds from the federal HOME and National Housing Trust Fund programs, will be released in 2021. Commerce will publish more information as it becomes available on its website and distribute via email. Subscribe to the Housing Trust Fund mailing list to stay up to date.

Since 1986, the state’s Housing Trust Fund has invested more than $1.3 billion in capital funding and helped build or preserve more than 55,000 units of affordable housing statewide.

Contact:             

Penny Thomas, Commerce Communications, (206) 256-6106

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